Archives for posts with tag: devotions

Let me hear    15.  Let me hear

“Let me hear joy and gladness . . .”    – Psalm 51:8

So my brother Sean in New Jersey sent me a text early this morning that read:  “You know it’s time to move to Florida when it takes you 30 minutes, a screwdriver, hairdryer and buckets of hot water just to get into your frozen car!  OMG, I need winter to stop!”   In the midst of the east coast’s long hard winter, he’s looking for a break from the cold.  “Let me hear,” he might say, “a forecast for a high of 63 and spring showers.”  That would be joy and gladness for him along with millions of others fatigued by the frost and snow.

The psalmist, in the midst of his dark, cold night of confession, pleads to God “Let me hear joy and gladness.”  It’s a statement of hope and trust that in God’s forgiveness there is reprieve, renewal, and better yet, joy.

If you walk into a public place, a library, airport terminal, a Starbucks, chances are you’ll see several people with either large headphones cradling their head or slender “ear buds” cascading from their ears and connected to their iPod or tablet.   They’re listening to their tunes or perhaps some radio interview.   When you’re driving around in the car, maybe you have the radio on.  I once took a road trip with a friend of mine who had the annoying habit of switching the radio station about every 30 seconds.   He was never satisfied with what was on — he always wanted to hear something else.

What do you want to hear this Lenten season?  What do you need to hear?

On a number of occasions when he is teaching, Jesus says  “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” (Mark 4:23)  Might this time of Lent be a time for extra listening to God.   We need not fuss with the dial and switch from station to station.   But having offered our own confessions of brokenness and our need for God’s grace, it’s time to just listen and wait — be it in meditation, on a walk, in our reading of scripture, in our listening to a sermon or hymn.  Just listen expectantly for joy and gladness.


Dear God,

You called out to your people in Deuteronomy, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.”   Might we hear our own names in that address — “Hear, O [insert your name].”  And upon hearing, may we come to  experience the joy and gladness of loving you with all our hearts, and with all our souls, and with all our might.


Prayerimages (3)

Dear God,

Thank you for inviting us to search, to query, to probe your gift of scripture to us.  And thank you for promising to respond to our faithful efforts to learn about and follow you.   Amen.


“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7: 7



Matthew 26: 69-75images (12)

69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.”

70 But he denied it before all of them, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.”

71 When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

72 Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.”

73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.”

74 Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment the cock crowed.   75 Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.



As we enter into this Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, tradition has us focus upon Peter’s denial of Christ.   This is the enthusiastic disciple — the one who leaped into the water to walk to Christ;  the one who professed to Jesus “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God”;  the one who said that HE would never deny his Lord.

But then we have our own moments, moments when people effectively say “You are with Jesus” and we deny it.  Moments when someone makes an off-color joke at someone else’s expense, but it’s just a joke so we keep silent.   Or when someone suggests cutting a corner in some enterprise which is not entirely legal or ethical, but we go along and keep silent.  Or when someone asks us for some help and we pretend not to see or hear them.  Or when we cling to old hurts and grudges rather than practice forgiveness.

Or when . . .



Dear Lord,

We want to follow you, but often we fail.   Sometimes we fail unwittingly, carelessly.  Sometimes we fail intentionally.  Forgive us for the ways that we deny you.  Forgive us and call upon us to be your disciples again.



p.s.  At some point along the way, I missed a day and so my devotions jump from day 36 to day 38.  Call today my “Leap Devotional”!


Matthew 26: 65-68images

65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66 What is your verdict?”

They [the council] answered,  “He deserves death.”

67 Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him,68 saying, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who is it that struck you?”



The verdict was in.   It didn’t take long.  Of course the religious authorities had been looking for a way to kill Jesus for a while.

The question of the High Priest still rings in our ears:   “Why do we still need witnesses?”   Per usual, the opponents of Jesus say something ironic.  Why do they still need witnesses?  Because they did not yet know the truth.   And yet, where were the witnesses for Jesus?  They were nowhere to be found.



Dear Lord,

They condemned you to death and would then turn you over to Pilate.

They rendered their verdict of guilty.

No one stood up for you.

Not a one.

Help us, we pray, to stand up for you today.



Matthew 26: 55-56images (1)

55 At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me.  56 But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.”

Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.



I expect that Jesus knew it would happen all along.  Even when he called out to them along the sea of Galilee to follow him, I expect he knew that this night would come when all, not some, all of the disciples would desert him.   Did they go as a group, or did they slink away one by one — each making the choice, by themselves, to flee.  Some may have stepped away quietly, covertly walking among the shadows of night so as to avoid notice.   But I imagine some of them may have just run.

I expect we’ve “been there, done that” at one point or another.  Are you the slink-away type?  Or do you prefer to just flat our run from Jesus?

Of course he always gives us the option.  So which will it be?  Will we slink back to Jesus, or will we run back to him?



Dear Lord,

Forgive us for our weakness.

Forgive us for our fear.

Forgive us for our lack of conviction

to stand with you.  To not run.

Make us disciples anew, call us again,

give us the hope, the mercy, the challenge, the joy

to be your disciples again.



Matthew 26: 50-54images (2)

50 Jesus said to him [Judas], “Friend, do what you are here to do.”

Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.

51 Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him,

“Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?  54 But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way?”



What strikes me first is the address to Judas.  “Friend.”   Jesus could have said, “You rascal!”, “You traitor!” — or any other term befitting the circumstances.  But that wouldn’t be Jesus.

And then there’s a second response by Jesus which also flies in the face of how we usually behave.  “Put your sword back”.   We are quick for vengeance in our society, quick to reach for arms, quick to use force.   But that is not Jesus’ way.  While we tend to think of the Old Testament quote of  “an eye for an eye”  as a biblical endorsement of the use of force (it was actually meant to ensure moderation),  Jesus refuted that by saying  “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also” (Matt. 5:38-39).

Much as we seek to justify our militant ways, the one we follow to the cross is the Prince of Peace.  After all, if he wasn’t, he wouldn’t be going to the cross.



Dear Lord,

Help us to put our swords back.

Those angry words.  Those mean actions.

Those real swords with which we too often seek to settle things in our society and in our world.

It may be difficult for us to see how we can live safely that way.

But help us to seek and find our security in you.

And if the world takes advantage of us in the process,

strengthen us and sustain us with your love and grace.



Matthew 26: 45-49images (1)

45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”

47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people.  48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.”

49 At once he came up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.



A peck on the cheek — betrayal.   Isn’t it curious that of all the signs that Judas could have given to signal who is to be arrested, he chose a kiss.   Not a handshake,  not a wink,  not “it’s the guy I’ll stand next to”  nor the person to whom I’ll say “Hello Rabbi.”    But a kiss.

It underscores the personal nature of the betrayal.  The fact that Judas was one of the twelve, chosen as a disciple.  Why did we even need a betrayal in the gospel story anyway?  Weren’t there plenty of people eager to have Jesus arrested who could have arranged to make it happen away from the crowd?

But betrayal is in the heart of the story.  And of course not just on Judas’ part, but by all of the disciples.  All of the supposed faithful failed Jesus.  Intentionally.  Spectacularly.   And yet he went to the cross for them (and us) anyway.



Dear Lord,

How many ways have I been untrue to you?

How many times have I allowed my temper to flare, gossip to govern, self-interest to predominate?

As we look back upon just yesterday, how many things would I have done differently had I lived that day with the intention to apply the gospel in my every word and deed?

Now we have a new day.





Matthew 26: 40-44   images

40 Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour?  41 Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”

43 Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words.   45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?”



You’ve that experience, I’m sure.   You’re sitting there, in a class room, a conference room, church (!) — and your head suddenly snaps back and you realize you’d been dozing.

Three times Jesus goes off to pray, three times he returns to find the disciples catching some z’s.   “Could you not stay awake with me one hour?”   We are nearing the beginning of Holy Week, a time when the temptation is great to think ahead to a glorious Easter service and resurrection, pretty dresses and hats, Easter Egg hunts and chocolate eggs.   But rushing past the darkness of Holy Week is akin to falling asleep in the garden of Gethsemane.   Instead, Jesus bids us to stay awake and accompany him as he walks toward the cross.    It seems the least we can do.



Dear Lord,

Awaken us to your call this Lenten season.

If our eyes get droopy and our attention wanders,

shake us up,  refresh our devotion to you,

and lead us into the coming week of a triumphal entry,

an evening meal in that upstairs room,

and a dark Friday.

And only then, draw us forward to that first light of dawn

on a day the begins the rest of our lives.



gather us back



Matthew 26: 30-35download (1)

30 When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.  31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’  32 But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”

33 Peter said to him, “Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.”

34 Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.”

35 Peter said to him, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And so said all the disciples.



What, I wonder, is behind Peter’s vehement denial that he will never desert  Jesus?   Is it — at that moment — the fervent feeling of devotion that he has for Jesus?   Is it — at that moment — the strength of his faith?   Or is it, I wonder, his pride?   Jesus has just poked all the disciples in the chest and predicted their failure to be true to him.   Peter, in a jingoistic  response, doubles down, pledging that  not only will he not desert Jesus, he’ll die with him.   These declarations, however, will soon dissipate like steam in the evening breeze.



Dear Lord,

Strengthen us, we pray, for the long journey.

Strengthen us for the challenges that we will face;  for the tests to our faith;  for the urge to flee instead of stand by your side when the cost of discipleship becomes apparent.



Matthew 26: 26-29    download

26 While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”

27 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you;  28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  29 I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”



I doubt we’ve ever told our children or grandchildren as we passed them the mashed potatoes or pizza at dinner time, “take, eat; this is my body.”   I doubt we’ve ever spoken such words even though at some points we may feel as though we could  make such a claim given the material or personal sacrifices we have made for our child(ren) or grandchild(ren).    Such words, however, come readily to our Lord as he presides over the Passover meal.   And he’s not being symbolic, for he had and will give his all for his disciples — and us.



Dear Lord,

We thank you for giving us your all,

for feeding us with your very life,

which was and continues to be

a gift of grace that leaves us filled.